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Court says holdouts must leave land near Camp Humphreys

By FRANKLIN FISHER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 18, 2006

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Residents who have refused — sometimes amid violence — to move from land earmarked for the Camp Humphreys expansion are there unlawfully and must leave, South Korea’s high court has ruled.

Sunday’s ruling by the Seoul High Court, however, set no deadline for the 74 residents to vacate their homes in Daechu-ri and Dodu-ri villages, which border Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.

But South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense on Monday said a deadline would be set for sometime in January or February. An MND spokesman noted that is also the period in which workers are slated to have begun the first phase of development of the land.

Camp Humphreys is set to triple in size in coming years under a South Korea-U.S. agreement. The plan will see the post expand onto a neighboring 2,328-acre tract that includes Daechu-ri and Dodu-ri.

Most residents of the area have accepted compensation payments and moved away after the government bought the land in 2005 for the camp expansion.

Some, however, stayed, and their continued presence has fueled a high-profile controversy marked by violence in which anti-U.S. activists have marshaled thousands of protesters for rallies met by even larger contingents of riot police on the lands near Humphreys and elsewhere. The activists oppose the expansion and the continued U.S. military presence on the peninsula.

Faced with the resistance, South Korea’s government sought a court sanction to expel the holdout residents.

The court’s ruling upheld the relocation efforts, saying the government had legally bought the land and was within its rights to insist the remaining residents leave.

The court also noted that the government was making payments to those asked to move.

Under mounting public pressure from South Korean conservatives, the government on May 4 carried out a security operation in which thousands of riot police seized the contested tract and ousted anti-expansion activists from a former school compound they had turned into a makeshift opposition headquarters in Daechu-ri.

South Korean army troops have since turned the tract into a restricted-access military zone with razor-wire barriers, water-filled trenches and other obstacles. Troops now garrison it round-the-clock.

Although the expansion was scheduled to be completed by 2008, the MND last week said it could be pushed back to 2013, partly because of delays that resulted from the protests. The MND also cited concerns over how the United States and South Korea would split costs as another factor in the possible delay.

But work on the land could be under way as early as January, U.S. Forces Korea officials have said.

The MND has agreed not to demolish the homes of the remaining holdout residents until they leave.


Judge jails six leaders of protests

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — A South Korean judge in Pyeongtaek imposed jail sentences on six people convicted of leading violent protests against the Camp Humphreys expansion project.

Pyeongtaek Chief Judge Sung Ji-yong on Friday sentenced three people to 18 months in jail after they were convicted of interfering with the execution of government duty and holding unlawful protests.

Three other people drew 18-month jail sentences for convictions on the same charges, but Sung suspended the sentences for two years.

Last month, a man convicted of fostering violent resistance to the expansion project was sentenced to two years in prison. Kim Ji-tae was sentenced in Suwon District Court for instigating violent protests on the contested lands near Camp Humphreys.

— Franklin Fisher and Hwang Hae-rym

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